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March 2011

Below are the comics, manga and graphic novels I’m most looking forward to based on publisher advance listings due to be released in March 2011 (although actual dates may vary).



Agonizing Love:
The Golden Era Of Romance Comics

by Michael Barson
Collins Design
$29.99

The publisher says:
Agonizing Love is a rich anthology of those legendary romance comic books that once filled newsstands to overflowing during their heyday in the 1940s and ‘50s. “I Craved His Kisses,” “With Hate in My Heart,” “Kisses Came Second,” “Flame of Jealousy,” “Was I a Wicked Wife?”: these stories are just a taste of the absolutely riveting dramas that play out in the sob-racked pages of this evocative collection. Agonizing Love - is there any other kind? - runs the narrative gamut from honeymoon to heartbreak, first love to total loss, marital bliss to marriage hell, and all the stops in between. Throughout these colorful pages you will find a diverse selection of cover art and stories enhanced by a plethora of engaging quizzes (“Are You Ready for Marriage?”), confessional letters from readers, informative articles, tips on choosing the right man (or getting rid of the wrong one!), and oh, so much more! Compiled and with witty, informative commentary by pop-culture expert Michael Barson, Agonizing Love is an irresistible treasure trove sure to please comic-book lovers, soap-opera fans, and die-hard romantics who could use a good slap in the face. This is a heartfelt, often tear-drenched valentine to a long lost - but never to be forgotten - era.

Paul Gravett says:
This 208-page paperback looks like being more of a camperama kitschfest than an in-depth, insightful appraisal of this still underappreciated, underdocumented American comic book genre. For that, I’d direct you to Michelle Dolan’s methodical but rather specialist analysis of the genre in Love on the Racks: A History of American Romance Comics and John Benson’s two Fantagraphics studies Romance Without Tears, emphasising the affirmative, empowered, untearful roles of many women in these stories, before they became the sobbing wrecks sampled by Roy Lichtenstein from the early Sixties and Confessions, Romances, Secrets and Temptations examining the love comics from publisher Archer St. John. Still, I expect Barson’s take will be retro fun and worth checking out for what gets reprinted. In addition to this volume, hopeless romantics can look forward to Young Romance, a new collection due in March from Greg Theakston over at Pure Imagination of classic romance comics from before the Comics Code crackdown by Joe Simon & Jack Kirby, the pioneers of the genre in the US. I reviewed one of their finest, ‘The Girl Who Tempted Me’, here.



An Elegy For Amelia Johnson
by Andrew Roslan, Kate Kasenow & Dave Valeza
Archaia Entertainment
$14.95

The publisher says:
In her 30 years on earth, Amelia Johnson has touched many lives with her compassion, intelligence and spirit. Now, at the end of a yearlong battle with cancer, she asks her two closest friends to take her final messages to the people who have touched her life the most. Henry Barrons is a cocky, Oscar Award-winning documentary filmmaker whose demeanor hides deep insecurities. Jillian Webb is an acclaimed magazine writer with an inability to make long-term commitments. They set out across the country to fulfill Amelia’s dying wish, and end up learning more about her - and themselves - than they ever imagined. Authors Andrew Rostan, Dave Valeza and Kate Kasenow deliver a meditation on loving and forgiving those close to us in their moving graphic novel debut

Paul Gravett says:
Kate Kasenow is a graduate from the Savannah College of Art and Design with a BFA in Sequential Art. I’ve struggled to find any sneak previews of this one online but you can check out her portfolio here and her blog to get a feel for her accomplished artwork. A work of graphic medicine to keep a lookout for.



Baby’s In Black:
The Story of Astrid Kirchherr & Stuart Sutcliffe

by Arne Bellstorf
SelfMadeHero
£14.99

The publisher says:
Hamburg, 1960. Astrid has finished art school and now works as a photographic assistant. Her relationship with a young graphic designer, Klaus, is slowly fading. One night, following another argument, Klaus leaves, but returns late at night, excited about what he has discovered in the redlight district; a group from England playing rock ‘n’ roll. When Astrid eventually agrees to accompany him the following night, she doesn’t know her life is about to change forever. This is the story of ‘the fifth Beatle’, Stuart Sutcliffe and the love of his life, Astrid Kirchhher.

Paul Gravett says:
I am so looking forward to this one and I’m not that huge a Beatles fan! I remember learning about this one I think five years ago now over breakfast at the Erlangen Comics Festival in Germany with Arne and his wife Line Hoven, another hugely talented German comics creator. I also interviewed them both last year in Copenhagen where Arne showed some pages in progress. SelfMadeHero have some preview panels to look at here and will hopefully bring Arne over to London to promote the book with Comica Festival.



Chimo
by David Collier
Conundrum Press
$17.00

The publisher says:
Since publishing his first story in R. Crumb‘s Weirdo magazine, David Collier has been known for his thoughtful comic essays, often biographies of endearing eccentrics like himself. With his strong feeling for rustic scenery, Collier has carved a niche drawing homely images of grain elevators and abandoned cabins for publications like The Globe and Mail, the National Post, Saturday Night and Geist magazine. Chimo is an autobiographical account of Collier’s decision to re-enlist in the Canadian army and go through basic training again at age 40, leaving his new family behind. His goal is to get to Afghanistan and follow in the footsteps of artists (such as Alex Colville) who produced a body of work while serving in the Canadian War Artists Program. It is a poignant account of aging and mortality but, in true Collier fashion, digresses into scenes of jumping rope, kayaking in Hamilton harbour, and the story of his childhood hero, skier “Jackrabbit” Johannsen.

Chris Ware says:
“...an idiosyncratic, compelling and hilarious musing-in-comics that I couldn’t put down. Seemingly a quirky memoir about soldiering, it’s really a quest for survival - both basic and artistic - and a meditation on aging, family and the fight to simply try and understand oneself, all told by one of the most unpretentious cartoonists in North America. There’s an eye for mundane detail and a sort of animal fear running through it all that leaves one shaken yet oddly refreshed. It’s unlike anything I’ve read before. I loved it.”

Paul Gravett says:
If you need more endorsement, connoisseur Jeet Heer sums it all up so well in his ComicsComics column on Collier and there are some sneak peaks too. It’s also precisely the sort of graphic novel to consider at the Comics & Conflicts Conference coming up this August at London’s Imperial War Museum.



Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future: The Biography
by Daniel Tatarsky
Orion
$19.95 / £14.99

The publisher says:
Dan Dare, pilot of the future, was the creation of Frank Hampson, a young artist who cut his teeth on Meccano Magazine. Beginning in April 1950, Dan Dare was the lead strip in the hugely successful Eagle magazine. The strip would only run to a couple of pages, but stories (and their weekly cliffhangers) could run for over a year. The majority of the strips involved Dan, a suave, natural leader, doing battle with all manner of alien lifeform to preserve the future wellbeing of Earth. Hampson’s bold use of colour and figurative style (he used real-life models) were groundbreaking in post-war austerity Britain. In Dare Dare, the Biography, Daniel Tatarsky, with the entire Eagle archive open to him, researches the adventures of Dan Dare (and his co-pilots), and brings Britain’s favourite space hero to life. Talking to the original writers and illustrators, Tatarsky tells the story of Dare and Eagle magazine, and paints a portrait of a nation emerging from world war II, ready for life on other planets.

Paul Gravett says:
This has been in shops in the UK for a while now but is coming out in the USA shortly. What could so easily have been a slight novelty tie-in is actually another significant addition of over 240 pages, plus 64 pages of colour illustrations in eight glossy sections, investigating the origins and evolution of this seminal Fifties icon. It’s a solid licensed companion piece to Alastair Crompton’s artbook-cum-biograghy of Dare’s creator Frank Hampson, Tomorrow Revisited, which I reviewed here. Tatarsky is able to draw on some additional resources, notably a half-hour video interview with Hampson by Penny Sparke from 1978, and has conducted a host of fresh interviews with Hampson’s relatives, co-workers and admirers. Of course, as this is looking at Dan Dare he also goes further in discussing the ‘Pilot of the Future’ post-Hampson, with one chapter on Frank Bellamy’s Non-Studio System and the strip’s sometimes peculiar later Sixties storylines, one of which prompts the author to ask: “Was this Eagle‘s subtle attempt to warn children about the dangers of LSD?” There is one chapter on Dare’s impact on celebrities ranging from Elton John to Stephen Hawking, and another on the merchandising. I appreciated the overview of the mixed fortunes of Dare and Eagle when exported to other countries, succeeding mainly in the Netherlands (1955-1966), Yugoslavia (1954-1973) and Italy, in particular in Il Giorno dei Ragazzi, 1957-1968). Back in Britain, the 2000AD versions of Dare from 1977 are touched on, focussing on Dave Gibbons’ rendition, although the revival in the ‘New Eagle’ of 1982 gets short shrift . The Grant Morrison and Rian Hughes’ Thatcher-era reinterpretation for Revolver, reprinted in Hughes’ Yesterday’s Tomorrows is omitted, perhaps as ‘non-canon’ (as is, unusually, the computer animated TV series). A final 32-page Appendix offers commentaries on all of the original Eagle Dan Dare Adventures, 1950-1969. As the author says, there is more than enough to the story of Hampson and publisher Marcus Morris, of Eagle and Dan Dare, to be made into an excellent television or even film period docudrama in itself, like the recent BBC bio-pics on Morecombe & Wise or Hattie Jacques. Well written and well worth reading, Tatarsky’s biography shows that, sixty years on, a few more secrets are still being uncovered.



Empire State: A Love Story
by Jason Shiga
Abrams ComicArts
$17.95

The publisher says:
Jimmy is a stereotypical geek who works at the library in Oakland, California, and is trapped in his own torpidity. Sara is his best friend, but she wants to get a life (translation: an apartment in Brooklyn and a publishing internship). When Sara moves to New York City, Jimmy is rattled. Then lonely. Then desperate. He screws up his courage, writes Sara a letter about his true feelings, and asks her to meet him at the top of the Empire State Building (a nod to their ongoing debate about Sleepless in Seattle). Jimmy’s cross-country bus trip to Manhattan is as hapless and funny as Jimmy himself. When he arrives in the city he’s thought of as “a festering hellhole,” he’s surprised by how exciting he finds New York, and how heartbreaking - he discovers Sara has a boyfriend! Jason Shiga’s bold visual storytelling, sly pokes at popular culture, and subtle text work together seamlessly in Empire State, creating a quirky graphic novel comedy about the vagaries of love and friendship.

Paul Gravett says:
Shiga’s Meanwhile was one of the most inventive, innovative graphic novels of last year, if not of the last decade. All the signs are that Empire State, clocking in at 144 two-colour pages, will see him take another leap forward, less towards more playful all-ages experimentation, more towards a deepening expressive ambition. Look out for a thorough review shortly.



Matt Baker: The Art of Glamour
by Michael Eury
TwoMorrows
$39.95

The publisher says:
In the early 1940s, Matt Baker became of one the earliest African-American comic book artists. But it wasn’t the color of his skin which made him such a significant figure in the history of the medium - it was his innate ability to draw gorgeous, exciting women and handsome, dynamic men in a fluid, graceful style. Imagine Dave Stevens or Adam Hughes working in the ‘40s, drawing a new story every month, and you’ll have a good idea of Matt Baker’s place in the industry throughout his career. Yet few of today’s comic book fans know of the artist or his work, because he died in 1959 at the young age of 38, just as the Silver Age of Comics was blossoming and bringing in a new generation of readers. Matt Baker: The Art of Glamour presents an impressive career cut tragically short. It features a wealth of essays; interviews with Baker’s friends, family, and co-workers; and a treasure trove of his finest artwork, including several complete stories, at last giving the wonderfully talented artist his full due.

Paul Gravett says:
Over recent years, Roy Thomas’s comic book history magazine Alter Ego, also from TwoMorrows and just celebrating its 100th issue, has done some great detective work into the mysterious Matt Baker (December 10, 1921 to August 11, 1959), his life, his work and his tragically early death aged only 37 (he would have turned 38 in December that year). For a flavour, take a peep at this gorgeous cover gallery at Scott’s Classic Comics Corner. Baker also illustrated an early American graphic novel in a black-and-white paperback form, the 1950 crime drama It Rhymes With Lust, reprinted in 2007 by Dark Horse. Baker was a class act.



Mister Wonderful
by Daniel Clowes
Pantheon / Jonathan Cape
$19.95 / £14.99

The publisher says:
The fan-favorite Eisner Award-winning story, originally serialized in The New York Times Magazine, now collected and with forty pages of new material. Meet Marshall. Sitting alone in the local coffee place. He’s been set up by his friend Tim on a blind date with someone named Natalie, and now he’s just feeling set up. She’s nine minutes late and counting. Who was he kidding anyway? Divorced, middle-aged, newly unemployed, with next to no prospects, Marshall isn’t exactly what you’d call a catch. Twenty minutes pass. A half hour. Marshall orders a scotch. (He wasn’t going to drink!) Forty minutes. Then, after nearly an hour, when he’s long since given up hope, Natalie appears - breathless, apologizing profusely that she went to the wrong place. She takes a seat, to Marshall’s utter amazement. She’s too good to be true: attractive, young, intelligent, and she seems to be seriously engaged with what Marshall has to say. There has to be a catch. And, of course, there is. During the extremely long night that follows, Marshall and Natalie are emotionally tested in ways that two people who just met really should not be. Not, at least, if they want the prospect of a second date. A captivating, bittersweet, and hilarious look at the potential for human connection in an increasingly hopeless world, Mister Wonderful more than lives up to its name.

Paul Gravett says:
I’ve just read an advance reader’s copy of this, albeit in black-and-white, and this is another piercing, honed character study as only Clowes can deliver. Due to the remixing, it comes in a slightly odd, wide and narrow format and many of the new pages seem to be big images, some of them bleed spreads, so even more widescreen in shape, practically Cinerama. As Seth did with his NYT Mag serial George Sprott, Clowes’ re-jigging and expansion of his Mister Wonderful really works here. To see what his original mix looked like, you can download pdfs of all 19 ‘chapters’ still here. Clowes is also due to have a one-man retrospective at this year’s Fumetto Festival in Lucerne, Switzerland, which serves as a preview of a much bigger solo show, Daniel Clowes: A First Survey, in early 2012 at the recently opened Museum of California, conveniently just down the road from his home in Oakland.



Night Animals
by Brecht Evens
Top Shelf Productions
$7.95

The publisher says:
Lush colors, wild imagination, and rich human themes collide in the Top Shelf debut of Belgian cartoonist Brecht Evens. Night Animals is a deluxe full-color comic book containing two wordless stories, each a feast for the mind as well as the eyes. Join an innocent young girl as she becomes a woman and learns where the wild things are, then follow a rabbit-suited man as his blind date becomes the epic journey of a lifetime. These gorgeous, bewitching tales are not to be missed.

Paul Gravett says:
Brecht Evens is the Flemish boy wonder of comics, only 25 this year. This silent comic book Night Animals pre-dates his breakthrough graphic novel, Wrong Place,  one of the debuts of the year finally released by Drawn & Quarterly, but it’s stands up as a lovely work of precocious youth. His exhibit I caught at Fumetto last year was brilliant and I’m still hoping to get him over to London for a Comica event later this year. His publisher from Oog Achtend was over before Christmas and assured me he is working on a great new long comic. Brecht will also be interviewed, with his crony Olivier Schrauwen, by critic Gert Meesters at the Angoulême Comics Festival in France at 10am on Friday January 28th, 2011.



Pinocchio
by Winshluss
Last Gasp / Knockabout
$29.95 / £19.99

The publisher says:
Winshluss’ graphic novel is an adult noir movie that at times is both comedy and tragedy. The narrative begins with a shooting, and then flashes back to Pinocchio’s creation (he is now a robot-like android) and adventures. Collodi’s original story is also darker than Disney’s version, while at the same time very funny. The artwork is primarily done in pen and ink, and watercolor but switches to paint for larger splash panels.

Paul Gravett says:
This warped, wacky reworking of the famous fairytale won the top prize, best book of the year, at the 2009 Angoulême Festival. Why hasn’t it jumped swiftly into English? I got to meet the guys behind French publishers Les Requins Marteaux (The Hammer Sharks) at last year’s SPX in Stockholm who told me that apparently some of its adult content, more racial caricature than sexuality, had inhibited North American majors like Fantagraphics, Drawn & Quarterly and Top Shelf finally from translating it. Luckily Tony Bennett from Knockabout was at SPX too and put them together and Tony secured underground veterans Last Gasp to partner with him on this. So it all worked out splendidly. All being well, Winshluss will be over in London around early April when Foyles Bookshop Gallery is hosting a launch exhibition. Under his other name, Vincent Paronnaud, he’s a busy man right now co-directing once again with Marjane Satrapi their sequel to the animated Perspeolis, a live-action version of Satrapi’s graphic novel Chicken with Plums.



Rainy Day Recess:
The Complete Steven’s Comics

by David Kelly
Northwest Press
$14.99

The publisher says:
David Kelly’s Steven’s Comics explore the world of a sensitive boy coming of age in the seventies, with all the joys, quirks, and heartbreaks. This book collects the entire Xeric-winning series in one volume.

Paul Gravett says:
I was charmed right from the start by David Kelly’s understanding of the inner life of a lonely, anxious boy, growing up living with his grandma. I sense the influence here of the great Lynda Barry in these strips’ bold, expressive art and generous texts. Great to have them all compiled in this smart kids-book style landscape package.


Setting The Standard: Alex Toth
edited by Greg Sadowski
Fantagraphics
$39.99

The publisher says:
“It’s hard to overstate the influence of Alex Toth on the art of comic books,” says Sadowski. “Toth was from that first generation who grew up reading comic books, and he came to the medium armed with enough discipline, talent, and sheer love and respect for the medium to create a technique free of condescension, artifice, or shortcuts. His work at Standard first established him as the ‘comic book artist’s artist.’” Learning his craft at Eastern and DC, Alex Toth arrived at Standard Comics in late 1951 with a fully formed, graphically impeccable technique perfectly suited to the comic book medium - honest, uncompromising, and free of condescension and artifice. Includes a biographical sketch and an essay on Toth’s approach to comic book storytelling, based heavily on his interviews and written correspondence.

Paul Gravett says:
A hearty helping of reprinted stories in colour shot from the rare Fifties comic books demonstrate why Toth (rhymes with ‘Both’) continues to inspire comic artists to this day. Also due alongside this Fantagraphics volume is Genius, Isolated: The Life & Art of Alex Toth, the delayed biography from IDW which I highlighted a few months back here. Since then, this book has expanded to become the first in a three-volume slipcased boxed set, to be released over the next year covering his whole life. How wonderful.


Suddenly Something Happened
by Jimmy Beaulieu
Conundrum Press
$20.00

The publisher says:
Jimmy Beaulieu is the founder of the publishing house Mécanique Génèrale, and Suddenly Something Happened is his first book in English, forming the definitive edition of this autobiographical work. Told in richly rendered pencil lines in front of masterfully drawn backdrops portraying Quebec’s urban and rural landscapes, these are the complete non-adventures of Jimmy Beaulieu, an easygoing artist with an appreciation for the finer things in life, such as the balconies of Montreal in spring time and station wagons with fake wood paneling.

Paul Gravett says:
No spoiler alerts here, but Beaulieu’s Quebecois slice-of-life comics, gently (self-) reflective, undergo a midway surprise and awakening when ‘Suddenly Something Happened’ and take on an added empathy. Thanks Conundrum for bringing these French-Canadian autobio strips into English.



Sugar & Spike Archives Vol 1
by Sheldon Mayer
DC Comics
$59.99

The publisher says:
DC’s cult favorite comic about a pair of precocious babies is collected at last in this volume. Hot-tempered Sugar Plumm and shy Cecil “Spike” Wilson may be toddlers, but they know more about getting into trouble than most grown-ups. And while they can understand each other perfectly, all their parents seem to hear when they speak is “Glx sptzl glaah!” Now, DC Comics collects their classic series for the first time, starting with issues #1-10, in this hardcover showcasing stories and art by the talented Sheldon Mayer, inspired by the hijinks of his own children.

Paul Gravett says:
Now I’ll let you into a secret, a cartoonist chum of mine gave me a CD with the entire run of Sugar & Spike on it. I don’t think either of us ever expected DC to start reprinting them systematically. But here it is, the first Archive of these hugely enjoyable four-color gems. You will never be able to listen to baby-talk the same way again. 



The Complete Wendel
by Howard Cruse
Universe
$24.95

The publisher says:
The complete collection of the entire groundbreaking gay comic strip series. Originally published in The Advocate throughout the 1980s, Howard Cruse’s Wendel is widely considered the first gay comic strip to be featured in mainstream media. A topical and heartfelt chronicle of one gay man’s journey through the often-rocky Reagan-Bush years, the strip followed the adventures of Wendel Trupstock, his boyfriend Ollie, and an unforgettable cast of supporting characters. More realistic than most comics of the time, Wendel did not observe the traditional comic strip formula. Instead, it presented realistic depictions of relationships, politics, personal struggles, and public triumphs, all seen through a gay perspective that was just coming into relative widespread acceptance. Wendel became more than a comic strip as it, and Cruse, were propelled into the rarefied pop culture category reserved for art and artists that not only entertain, but also influence and are influenced by shifts in public consciousness. Its influence was such that Tony Kushner wrote, “Wendel unfolds with the narrative complexity, nuance, detail, and honesty of a great satirical novel.” The Complete Wendel contains every episode of the series and includes a new foreword by Cruse, who contextualizes the story of the creation and publication of the strip within the often tumultuous political zeitgeist of the 1980s. It also features a new cover and a special “where are they now” section created for this book.

Paul Gravett says:
Last year saw the overdue reissue of Cruse’s outstanding graphic novel Stuck Rubber Baby and 2011 brings this very welcome fresh compendium of his equally ground-breaking gay comic serial, Wendel. A major social chronicle of the Eighties, still as revealing and relevant as ever today.



The Heavy Hand
by Chris C. Cilla
Sparkplug Comic Books
$14.00

The publisher says:
Take an inky road trip with a liar (Alvin Crabshack) into the generally ignored world of mask wearing freaks and monsters both dead and alive. Folk tales are made up by regular schmucks in party houses, caves and vans. Are you concerned about the eggs? Alvin has a story for whoever he meets, including you. Cult cartoonist Chris Cilla gets the “graphic novel” treatment, heads have been waiting.

Paul Gravett says:
Already causing quite a ruckus in US indie comix circles, with his book high on many pundits’ ‘Best of 2010’ lists, C.C. Cilla is an emergent talent with a knack for off-kilter oddness.



The Klondike
by Zach Worton
Drawn & Quarterly
$24.95

The publisher says:
The Klondike gold rush shook the Yukon on the eve of the twentieth century and stands today as the defining era in the taming of North America and especially Canada’s Great North. The history of how a handful of colorful characters sparked the largest mobilization of gold seekers in history is brought vividly to life in this debut graphic novel by the cartoonist Zach Worton. His stunning depictions of the Canadian wilderness are as much a part of the action as the key players: the prospector George Carmack; the racist prospector Robert Henderson; ‘Skookum Jim Mason’, a Native American posthumously credited with discovering gold; ‘Soapy Smith’, a noted con artist; Belinda Mulrooney, perhaps the first female involved in the gold rush to become rich; and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.Worton draws the reader into an absorbing historical tale of political intrigue and personal adventure, played out amid the free-for-all atmosphere of the Wild West.

Paul Gravett says:
This intriguing historically researched graphic novel offers extra nuggets of wisdom across its 320 pages, including ‘a glossary featuring notes about “How to Pan for Gold” and tips on how to spot the differences between “fool’s gold” and the real thing.’  Now that’s handy to know!



Vignettes of Ystov
by William Goldsmith
Jonathan Cape
£14.99

The publisher says:
Welcome to Ystov - a bleak but whimsical city. We invite you to zoom in and out, through panoramas of industry and market squares, to witness the varied lives of its curious inhabitants - lives of absurdities, restraints and small triumphs. Meet the poet Eugene Tusk, stumbling upon the old haunts of the Strombold Collective, his defunct poetry society. Or the property agent Yosef Kavar - clearing the apartment of a recently deceased janitor, and discovering a home-made museum, dedicated to a lifetime’s collection of dustpan detritus. What of this pair of scientists - fed up with astrophysics and out to disprove coincidences as a phenomenon? And here are two men meeting to discuss the fate of an old schoolfriend, piecing together their memories of him, searching for clues that might have led to his sudden arrest for ‘nose-crimes’. Vignettes of Ystov is a series of miniature masterpieces. Beautifully drawn, and written with a Chekhovian clarity and concision, it marks the arrival of one of the most inventive new talents in comics.

Paul Gravett says:
Jonathan Cape score again, finding and supporting another young, rising British newcomer. I picked out one of these Vignettes of Ystov to exhibit in the That’s Novel exhibition I curated for last year’s Comica and I’ll be profiling William Goldsmith for Art Review, where he’s drawn a brand-new episode. A highly promising start.
 


Walking Shadows:
A Novel Without Words

by Neil Bousfield
Manic D Press
$19.95 / £14.99

The publisher says:
In this uniquely beautiful wordless graphic novel, a working-class family struggles to make ends meet and raise their children in a relentless world of economic challenges. The story of Walking Shadows is told through 220 full-page woodcut engravings reminiscent of Frans Masereel and Lynd Ward. This book can be enjoyed both as graphic novel narrative and as an admirable work of art. Winner of the prestigious Rebecca Smith Award for Fine Art in the UK, this debut publication is unparalleled among modern works for its incredible visual details created in an uncommon medium, as well as the beauty of its deeply heartfelt narrative that speaks to common experience in these hard times. Author Neil Bousfield is a professional printmaker, animator, and teacher whose work has been exhibited throughout the UK. His engravings reflect his interest in social concerns and the use of visual art to convey a narrative story. This is his first book.

Paul Gravett says:
British wood engraver Neil Bousfield rejuvenates the great tradition of wordless novels celebrated last summer in Lincoln at the Silent Witnesses exhibition. I’ve found a few example engravings made by him for this project online, when it was called The Cycle on Nancy Campbell’s blog from 2008. Nancy comments:

“Neil Bousfield is the only artist I know to produce a wood engraving of a Job Centre. The narrative of The Cycle refers to a pattern of social exclusion repeated through the generations in a family who escape their difficult reality through crime and alcoholism. The Society of Wood Engravers have sponsored Neil through recent printmaking projects. Nonetheless, with the epic project of this book before him, Neil took a very economical attitude to the job, and disciplined himself to produce one engraving every day.”

Now that is true dedication and hard physical image-making. This month, Neil Bousfield is exhibiting his work at the Washington Printer Makers Gallery as one of six contemporary British wood engravers in Bewick’s Legacy. From the catalogue, I found this revealing passage online by Simon Brett:

“For his first graphic art degree in 1990, Neil Bousfield specialised in animation. He worked in that field, in the games industry, and in craftwork in wood and wood-turning and taught these subjects to the socially excluded, for 10 years, while also gaining an Msc in Graphical Computing Technologies. By the time he began an MA in Multi-Disciplinary Printmaking at the University of the West of England, in Bristol, in 2003, therefore, he had experience of visual narrative and of hands-on making, a deep and growing interest in the woodcut and wood engraving of the 1930s and 40s, especially the ‘novels in woodcuts’ of that time, and an experienced sympathy with the poor and the underprivileged.  For his finals, he produced The Cycle, a novel told in 188 images, measuring about 6 x 5 inches each, which he engraved on vinyl mounted to type-high, at the rate (as the deadline approached) of one a day. It concerns the cycle of deprivation and exclusion which families can get stuck in, one generation after another. He produced 12 hand-printed copies of the book.”

Now, thanks to Manic D Press, more of us can now discover this socially conscious British comics craftsman.

Posted: January 16, 2011

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